Oktoberfest 2011: Deer Valley trail run report

I have been waiting for this event as Deer Valley is one of my favorite 4X4 trails. In the past I ran this trail only one-way: North to South (from Blue Lakes to Hwy 4). My son Lukas could not make it because of mid-term tests but my wife Jessie took his place. It took us 3 hours to get from Fremont to Bear Valley, and we were amazed how summer was turning into winter as we gained elevation. We arrived to Bear Valley Base Camp lodge around 4pm on Friday. We met Connie in the frozen parking lot; she also just arrived. After unloading, checking in and eating late lunch we drove to Mosquito Lake to see the condition of Hwy 4 past Bear Valley. It was wet in places but not frozen. When we came back to the lodge, Jason was showing the movie from Slick Rock run they did that day. We had some snacks, beer and wine, and retired early to our room. The beds were amazingly comfortable, and we woke up for trail meeting originally scheduled for 8am. However, trail boss Jason decided to postpone the meeting and the run by 1 hour to avoid black ice on Hwy 4. My Jeep was all frozen, so that I left the engine running while we were having a breakfast.

14 rigs departed from the parking lot at 9:10am. Sun was shining, and the condition of Hwy 4 was good at this time. We were joined by 2 more rigs in the staging area. We aired down to 15psi, disconnected, attached bull-bar-mounted video camera and waited for the start. Kelly and Tom were spotting the Gatekeeper – thanks for great job! The trail looks and feels completely different when covered with 10” of snow. Good that it was not dusty and was softer, but keeping the right line and placing tires on the rocks was more difficult because they were slippery. I was driving behind Chris (JK). The first obstacle after the Gatekeeper which required a spotter was the tight place between the tree and rocks on the right, and rocks on the left. Tom spotted me, and after several attempts I made it. The next obstacle was the fallen tree. Rigs in front of us made a very gnarly bypass but it was slowing us down. CJ suggested that I winch that log away. It was stuck between two other trees, and had to be broken by winching the far end of the log. My winch sweated, but the log was broken and removed. I thought I had this moment on my front mounted camera, but, unfortunately, I discovered after the run that some pieces of the movie were corrupt (still not sure if it was the fault of the camera or flash memory) including the winching episode.

The first water crossing was shallow but the second one was deep (we made it even deeper taking the left line!). My camera died at the end of the second water crossing (got some water) but recovered quickly afterwards. The meadow after the second water crossing was covered with fresh snow. Beautiful in summer, it was also beautiful under virgin snow cover. Felt like January. We had our lunch there. After the lunch Jason and CJ had every rig in our group lined up, and we took group pictures. Nice – 16 rigs on snow in October! Before turning back I aired down some more to 10psi expecting that the return trip will be more difficult. However, it was actually easier – we made it back to the trailhead in 2 hours. No damage to the Jeep on the trail, although I landed on my pumpkin at the end of the Gatekeeper when I already though that I am past it.

Back in the lodge the smell of food was making me and Jessie hungry. Beer did not help with hunger, so we much a little and waited. But the dinner was worth waiting. Thanks to the chefs for excellent Oktoberfest meals and beer! I had too many wursten (but Jessie though I had too much beer ;-) After dinner we watched movies and pictures from the Deer Valley and Slick Rock runs.

Overall, this Oktoberfest was a great success! Thanks God, we had snow, and thanks to organizers for cozy lodging, great trail guidance and excellent dinner!

This is a link to my video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoniIq8u4Mg


Vidas Trip Report: Sierra Trek 2011

This was the first Sierra Trek in which I participated. I registered for SWB run on Fri. My sun Lukas and I left Fremont around noon on Thu. We planned to arrive to the base camp, go through vehicle safety inspection (4-6pm), hang out there for a while and then go camping by the trailhead. The first thing which went not according to our plan was the same TJ engine problem I experienced during Summer Campout: after refueling in Auburn my Jeep was hesitant to start, worked uneven (like some cylinders did not work), and built up oil pressure very slowly. When “check engine” light came up I decided to do diagnostics in Auburn. First, we tried Jeep dealership but they were booked until Fri. I headed to local service station SpeeDee. They ran diagnostics and found out that cylinder 3 was misfiring. After checking online records they found the possible issue with #3 injector being overheated from exhaust manifold. Recommended repair was to install a heat shield and insulate that injector which was done. In the end, it took us about 3 hours including search for service, diagnostics, and repairs to get going again. We arrived to the main camp near Meadow Lake past 7pm and missed the safety inspection. We met Dave in the camp and then had quick meals before driving back to the trailhead for camping. I underestimated the time it takes to get from Meadow Lake to SWB trailhead. Dave said there is another way instead of going around to hwy 89 to I-80 but we did not want to take chances. We arrived to the trailhead past 9pm and set our camp in the nice place near the creek. We have not seen any other campers around with the exception of the staging officers.

Next morning we lined up behind other rigs at the staging area at 5:10am. Our Jeep was 6th in line. I knew from my past experience that running hard trails in a group of rigs did not leave much time for taking pictures, especially in tight and technical spots. We decided to install action camera (I bought it at Fry’s for $85) on the bar above the winch. We turned it on and off along the way and produced some movies (links below). There was a safety inspection on the spot, then some coffee and group meeting where trail leaders explained the rules, what to expect etc. We started at around 6:30am. The first obstacle where our group had to stop was a steep rock step with the creek and 10-15’ drop-off on the right. One of our group, Ross, slid off the ledge on the left and had his rear right tire hanging over the drop-off to the creek. It took some winching to get that Jeep back on the trail. The first two “casualties” happened on the Sunrise Hill: one Jeep overheated and boiled, another shredded one tire, and yet another Jeep running Fordyce Trail on their own had their front driveshaft broken. However, the first serious delay happened when the Toyota truck driven by one of the event leaders broke down on Winch Hill 1. The front driveshaft disconnected (slid off the sleeve that was too short for this extreme articulation). Winching up did not help because the truck was leaning too much to the right. It was decided to fix it right there on WH1. It took more that one hour and many drivers chose to go around to bypass WH1. However, we waited patiently and attempted WH1. We made it almost all the way up but lost traction just trying to crawl over the final ledge. After two more attempts did not succeed I had to winch myself up. That was the only time I needed winch help. We made all other winch hills and obstacles on a first try. There were many times of metal to rock grinding under our Jeep but quick inspections revealed no serious damage. We became bolder as we proceeded and were running ahead of our pack. At 4pm we conquered Winch Hill 5, the final obstacle on our trail! We did it!

My son had to be home on Saturday morning, so that we decided to leave that evening. Before the pavement we reconnected, aired up, put Jeep top and headed back to our campsite where I did more careful inspection underneath of our Jeep. Just dents and scratches to bumpers, skid plates, rocker guards, pumpkins, control arms etc. as is supposed to be. Nothing required repairs. I lit my well deserved cigar. After that we packed and were back home in Fremont by 10pm.

It was a long tiring wheeling requiring constant concentration and care, but it was such an adrenalin rush! And overwhelming sense of accomplishment and relief! We made it! Not unscathed but without a breakdown or even serious damage. This was our hardest trail ever. It was nice to see some many dedicated volunteers helping in every possible way on the trail: excellent spotting, advice on correct line and tactics and encouraging words. Overall, CA4WD did exceptionally professional work organizing so many volunteers and coordinating so many runs every day.

This is one event to remember! Here are some videos: WH 3&4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58PZDKXC6Ck

WH 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOS46q51CaI

WH 1&2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnZVWVioEVw

Regards, Vidas

Pismo Dunes!

Does anyone need a couple of pounds of clean beach sand? Just come vacuum out my Jeep! This run almost died due to member attrition, but Lupe, her father Frank and I met up at her house about 1pm on Friday and headed south on 101 - into a massive back up due to a grass fire. It delayed us about an hour, and took it's toll on the clutches driving stop and go up a hill in hot weather. But we had smooth sailing once past the fire, and still arrived in time for a fab sunset. We opted for dinner in town at Splash Cafe, and had some really good clam chowder an salads. Back to the sand for a campfire, and it got cold and very very damp. It was raining inside my tent.

Saturday started out overcast, but we got breakfast put away as CJ showed up with his friend (oops, should have written down his name:- { Out into the dunes with sand 101. Up dune, down dunes, and airing down. Soon we were playing follow the leader out into the deep dunes. About 10am, the wind picked up, and by 11am the overcast just started to clear when we headed back for lunch. The sand was flying and the wind was howling. My tent was full of sand, blow in under the rain fly and through the mesh! Since Lupe was still having problems with her Jeep slowing down going up some of the dune climbs, Lupe & CJ got out the owner's manual and figured out how to turn off the traction control! Really? Traction control?? After securing the tents and covering everything we could it was back out.

More dunes, and then we spotted a limping pick up way out in the dunes. Tire off the rim. I radioed to CJ to ask if we should render aid? And he headed straight over! So, Lupe was treated to a demonstration of how to remount a tire. It took about 20 minutes, and we were back on our way, the driver having offered the usual beer bonus and the praise "You Jeep people are the best!" CJ picked up a great flag out in the dunes.

The wind was still howling, so we headed back to camp to see if the tents were still there (mostly) had a quick snack (Lupe has pictures of us huddled in the wind shadow of the Jeep) and took a quick walk around looking at the toys. Then a couple more hours lost in the sand until the sun started sinking. We went back to camp, cleaned up a bit, and then headed uptown to McKlintocks. CJ's compressor and tank filled Lupe's tires up to 20# in nothing flat while we watched another great sunset. The up through town.

We put our name in and were were told "45 minutes". We spent about 30 minutes in the rest rooms de-sanding as best as possible (by now, I had sand in my shoes, sand in my hair, sand in my ears...) and got back to the lobby only to find it was going to be another 45 minutes. CJ's local expert suggested Mo's BBQ back in town, and we headed back. No wait, great Q, garlic fries, Tri-tip and home made potato chips. After deciding not to pay $2 for a nacho cheese flavored cricket, we stopped for frozen yogurt with an impressive array of toppings and sat in the nice warm store until they closed. Then split up and headed back to the beach. After another campfire that Frank miraculously lit in the windstorm, we went to bed. At least it was dry.

Sunday AM: We got about an hour of perfect Pismo weather: mostly clear skies, a gentle breeze and warm sun. So we started to pack with the idea that we might get a some time on the dunes in the nice weather. No such luck - the gale force wind came back and made packing unpleasant. Since it was 11 when we finished packing we decided to head home. We almost didn't get off the beach with the trailer and aired up tires, but made it back to pavement. It was noon by the time we got gassed up and aired up, so we took to the highway, met up with CJ in SLO and caravanned home. The drive was uneventful except for the headwind, and occasional sideways gusts making driving straight a challenge.

I have to say, Lupe's Jeep is VERY comfortable. The seats are very cushy, soft and supportive.

By the way, I still have sand in my ears! Thanks for a great run, Ellen